HMS Montrose takes part in Nato's counter piracy mission Operation Ocean Shield off the Horn of Africa Photo: MOD
Wednesday, May 09, 2012
The Royal Navy no longer has enough warships to dedicate one to fighting piracy off the coast of Somalia all year round, it was reported.
Cuts mean that the UK has had to scale back its commitments in the region, despite David Cameron making the fight against the multi-billion dollar piracy problem there a foreign policy priority.
While the US, France, Italy, Denmark and other countries still send frigates, Britain has quietly withdrawn its ships, according to a newspaper.
The UK can now only deploy two frigates for contingency operations east of the Suez canal, with neither able to be committed to piracy full time, it was reported.
The Navy's fuel and supply ship, the Fort Victoria, has been supporting the counter-piracy fleet in the region since last year but it is unclear whether this will continue beyond the summer.
Four frigates had been dedicated to Somalia, deployed on rotation to give year-round support. But four frigates were scrapped in Ministry of Defence cuts.
Difficulties have been compounded by the need to commit ships and personnel to the Olympic security effort this summer.
A senior Whitehall source told the Guardian: "Counter piracy is getting very difficult for the UK. We have two frigates that are supposed to look after contingencies in the Falklands, the Gulf and piracy."
"Fort Victoria is a good platform but we cannot commit frigates to Somalia. They go in and out when they can, but reassurance work in the Gulf is more of a priority now.
"Many of the people who are good at counter-piracy are now involved in the Olympics, so they are not available either, and won't be until the autumn at the earliest."
Piracy cost the world economy $7 billion (£4.3 billion) last year and figures show that pirates raised almost $160 million from hostage ransoms, but 24 captives died.
Among the victims were British businessman David Tebbutt - whose wife Judith was held for six months before being released in June.